In 2008, a Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences working group chaired by Professor Emilio Bossi issued a “Memorandum on scientific integrity and the handling of misconduct in the scientific context”, together with a paper setting out principles and procedures concerning integrity in scientific research. In the Memorandum, unjustified claims of authorship in scientific publications are referred to as a form of scientific misconduct – a view widely shared in other countries. In the Principles and Procedures, the main criteria for legitimate authorship are specified, as well as the associated responsibilities. It is in fact not uncommon for disputes about authorship to arise with regard to publications in fields where research is generally conducted by teams rather than individuals. Such disputes may concern not only the question who is or is not to be listed as an author but also, frequently, the precise sequence of names, if the list is to reflect the various authors’ roles and contributions. Subjective assessments of the contributions made by the individual members of a research group may differ substantially. As scientific collaboration – often across national boundaries – is now increasingly common, ensuring appropriate recognition of all parties is a complex matter and, where disagreements arise, it may not be easy to reach a consensus. In addition, customs have changed over the past few decades; for example, the practice of granting “honorary” authorship to an eminent researcher – formerly not unusual – is no longer considered acceptable. It should be borne in mind that the publications list has become by far the most important indicator of a researcher’s scientific performance; for this reason, appropriate authorship credit has become a decisive factor in the careers of young researchers, and it needs to be managed and protected accordingly. At the international and national level, certain practices have therefore developed concerning the listing of authors and the obligations of authorship. The Scientific Integrity Committee of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences has collated the relevant principles and regulations and formulated recommendations for authorship in scientific publications. These should help to prevent authorship disputes and offer guidance in the event of conflicts.
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